Luke 12:15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
Curiously enough, there is some connection with getting rid of useless objects and getting rid of useless thought patterns and habits. Addressing one seems to help us address the other.
Consider these two pictures of the same room taken from almost the same spot:
Doesn’t the second picture make you feel better? The first picture feels noisy, chaotic, and cluttered! The second feels peaceful, free (because there’s room to move), and orderly. This directly affects us mentally and emotionally.
When your environment feels crowded by excess stuff, chaotic, disorderly, it is hard to keep your thoughts orderly, clear and free of excess baggage. It is easy to be distracted by the non-essentials when your living space is full of non-essentials! It is easy to get distracted from what you need to do when there are too many unfinished projects around. It’s probably common to end up doing nothing in order to avoid all the complications in the way. If you stuff your closets and extra spaces (like the spare room above) with things that either are not needed or belong somewhere else, there’s a good chance you’re doing the same thing with your mind and/or emotions. It’s an oddity of human nature, yet it makes sense.
When we focus on physical things, which are not the true essence of life, it’s no wonder that our minds and emotions become distracted with abstract things – emotions and thoughts – that don’t count. Sometimes it works the other way too. When we have emotional or mental things we don’t want to deal with or face, we can become obsessed with physical things as a way to distract ourselves from what we need to deal with.
I’m reminded of some excellent counsel a friend gave me once when I was dealing with a disappointing situation. She reminded me that the important thing was to “be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). There are many ways that thought could help us if we would just remember it!
So, one aspect of this challenge that I want to work on is not just clearing the physical space in our house, but also clearing the mental and emotional spaces inside of me for the things that really matter. This means trying not to waste time and effort and thoughts on things that are irrelevant, that don’t relate to my Father’s business and have no point in my own well-being.
Now I have plenty of areas to work on this! I hope to address some of them here in hopes that it will help others as well. But, in showing the need to ask the right questions, today I want to deal with the matter of fretting over things that I can’t change or that are not my responsibility. To fret is: “To cause to be uneasy; vex…To gnaw or wear away; erode…To produce a hole or worn spot in; corrode.”
For example, there were three products that I liked that recently changed their formula. (You know, “New and improved” and all that stuff.) In the first place, I hate making returns. (Who actually likes that, right?) But, I also was thinking about what I “ought” to write to the manufacturers to let them know that I don’t appreciate the changes and wish they hadn’t done it. But, “ought” I to actually spend time doing that? For me, I tend to spend much time thinking about what I “should” write and little time actually doing it. In fact, usually I never even “get around to” the writing part!
Asking a few pertinent questions could help resolve this. The following list is not an “apply-in-every-situation” type list. They are just some questions that I thought of in relation to this situation, though I think they would be helpful in some other areas as well.
1. What does this have to do with my service of the Lord? Is it profitable to the life to come (1 Tim. 4:8)? Answer: Nothing. No.
2. Is this ___________ essential to my well being? Does it help me maintain a workable comfort level? In one case at hand I can say “No”, and that I’m probably better off without it. The other two products do effect my health but, as it turns out, one product did not prove to be a problem, and in all three cases the change the companies made has prompted me to find other solutions that may in the long run prove to be better, healthier and/or cheaper! (Rom. 8:28)
3. Is it a good use of time, energy and/or emotions? Not as far as emotions are concerned, and probably not for time and energy. After all, even if I did write, what is the likelihood that the companies would listen? Not a whole lot. Not enough to make it worth my time. (Yes, I know that letting companies know what you think helps them make better choices, but remember I seldom, if ever, follow through; and since I have more important things to spend my time, emotions, and energy on, it really is not worth it!)
Conclusion: It isn’t worth the bother; lay it down!
If the answer proved to be yes in any case, then the next obvious question would be:
What should I do about it? And, obviously then I should do that as soon as possible in order to lay the thing aside and move on.
Since I tend to “fret myself” about a lot of things, it would save me time and trouble if I asked these questions whenever I realize I’m picking up that weight. Too often I end up “stewing” as my Gramma would have called it. If you “stew” long enough you will disintegrate and go to pieces, and that is not a good thing. :-) Maybe a better analogy, in keeping with our discussion, would be to say that I keep myself from moving on quickly as I drag around this weight.
So, one weight I need to work on is laying aside these episodes of “stewing”. That’s easier said than done, believe me! After I first wrote this post I discovered that my favorite unscented lotion had been changed to include a fragrance which I cannot tolerate. It was very annoying, and I started down that route of “what I should write” again before I convinced myself to stop. Yet, knowing the fact that I seldom ever follow through and write to a company, what use is it to “stew” over it? None really. It just ruins my day or afternoon or morning or, even worse, my night. Why not just let it go and look for a better solution, especially since that seemed to work out with the other cases?
What about you? Do these questions ring a bell with you too? Do you have another list of questions you should ask yourself? Maybe your fretting is in another area and you need a different set of questions. Part of the challenge of laying aside weights is learning to ask the right questions, and remembering to do so at the right time! So, today’s challenge is to compose a short list of questions that will help you throw off some of the emotional and mental clutter in your life, particularly “stewing” over things, or fretting. Try to make the list short and to the point. Be honest with yourself. It would probably be helpful to print or write out the questions and put them where they will be a good reminder to you. :-)
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.